Monday, June 15, 2009


Swamiji, How can words, which are limited in nature and which refer to objects,
reveal that which is limitless and cannot be objectified?
The words do not directly reveal. In the statement, “Words reveal the limitless,” for
example, the question becomes whether the words are known or unknown words. Do
known words reveal the limitless that is Brahman, which is not known to us so far, or
do unknown words reveal Brahman?
Known words cannot reveal Brahman because all known words are words that we
have gathered to describe things that we already know, which are all limited in nature,
like a pot, for example. All these known words are words which deal with genus or
species (jäti), attributes (guëa), actions (kriyä), and relationships (sambanda).
For example, when you say “cow,” the word reveals a generic object, meaning that
there are many cows. The word “cow” refers to a particular animal and whichever
animal has the meaning of the word “cow,” we call “cow.” Words, then, can reveal a
generic object, a substantive.
Once a generic object has been identified, words can further reveal certain attributes
that apply to that particular substantive, like a white cow. Or they can reveal an
action, a grazing cow. Words can also reveal a relationship or connection, like mother
or friend.
Words, then, generally reveal actions, relationships, attributes, or particular
substantives with a generic, individual status—all of which are finite. If Brahman is
infinite or limitless, naturally, words cannot reveal It. Therefore, the known words
that we have cannot reveal Brahman.
Perhaps, then, unknown words can reveal that which is unknown, Brahman. They
cannot, because the words themselves are unknown. Unknown words cannot reveal
another unknown thing. They can only join Brahman, both the words and Brahman
being unknown.
If unknown words cannot reveal Brahman, we have to use known words. Certain
known words are chosen and these have a particular connotation. Words can reveal
an object directly or by implication. Here, they reveal what is implied (lakñya) by
implication (lakñëa).
The words we use to reveal Brahman, then, are all lakñëas—satyam, jïänam,
anantam, and so on. Satyam means “is,” which is something we know. Generally,
“is” means that something exists and this existence is always in terms of time.
Therefore, we know satyam only as something that exists within time, theoretically
speaking. “Is” means, then, that the thing is not yet gone. This is what we call timebound.
The concept of “is” is that whatever exists is always bound by time.
But Brahman is said to be satyam and not bound by time (anantam-satyam). The
word anantam releases the word satyam from the time-bound concept and allows it to
retain its original meaning. The original meaning is “existence,” but the construed
meaning, the commonly known meaning for this word, is “existence in time.” And
that time is negated by the word anantam. This negation must be done in order to
know Brahman.
In the expression of the çruti, satyam-jïänam-anantam-brahma, the root meaning of
satyam, existence, is retained, while the time-bound existence we commonly
understand, the time conditioning, is removed. This means that Brahman is timeless
Then, again, it is said that Brahman is awareness (caitanyam), which is knowledge
(jïänam). Therefore, “jïänam” is also a lakñëa. Knowledge can be of anything—the
knowledge of a pot, the knowledge of a cloth, and so on. But, Brahman is both
anantam-jïänam and satyam-jïänam, knowledge that does not change, that is
invariable, always the same.
Brahman is not knowledge of this or that, but knowledge as such—it is limitless
knowledge. Knowledge of any one thing cannot be limitless. Knowledge of any one
thing means that it is not knowledge of anything else; therefore it is not limitless
knowledge. Having negated the limited aspect of knowledge, knowledge is freed
from all limitation. What remains is limitless knowledge—awareness—that which is
the invariable in all forms of knowledge. Therefore, awareness is satyam and this
awareness-satyam is limitless Brahman.
This, then, is how Brahman is revealed by known words—by implication (lakñëa)
alone, not as the direct meaning of these words.
1 From “Selected Satsangs with Swami Dayananda” as published in Arsha Vidya Gurukulam 3rd anniversary
souvenir, 1989.

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